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Govt. presents Rs.695 bn Supplementary Estimate to House: Rs.5,000 monthly allowance to be paid to public servants

The Government presented a Supplementary Estimate to spend Rs. 695 billion for various purposes including the payment of a Rs.5,000 monthly allowance to public servants since January this year.

The Supplementary Estimate was presented in Parliament by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday morning.

The Supplementary Estimate presented to Parliament, including proposals to spend Rs.67 billion to continue with the payment of the monthly allowance of Rs.5000 to Government Servants from January 2022, another amount of Rs.40 billion to continue with the payment of Rs. 5000 to pensioners and another sum of Rs.15 billion to pay Rs.1,000 to Samurdhi recipients.

The Supplementary Estimate also sought the approval of the House for a sum of Rs.140 billion to pay Samurdhi benefactors who are affected by the difficult economic situation, while for another sum of Rs.50 billion for the Ceylon Electricity Board to settle outstanding payments to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. In the meantime approval sought for another sum of Rs.12 billion for green agriculture and Rs. 50 billion for the payments for fertilizer.

The Supplementary Estimate also proposed to spend Rs.25 billion to provide food to the Security Forces, prisons and hospitals since the estimated amounts earlier were not adequate enough due to the increase of prices. It further proposed a sum of Rs 4.5 billion for other recurrent expenditure, Rs.21 billion for loan interests while the Supplementary estimate soughts approval to spend Rs.250 billion for expenses connected with Indian Line of Credit to import essential items.

 


Minister assures petrol, diesel distribution from today: Another two shipments due on June 9, 10

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that petrol and diesel will be released to the market as usual from today (8).

Speaking regarding the shortage of petrol and diesel he said they release around 54,000 MT of diesel and 3,400 MT of petrol to the market. However, we have given priority to supplying fuel for power generation, private buses, port and several other important institutions. Although around 3,400 MT of petrol and 5,400 MT diesel is required to be released daily, we are currently distributing around 2,800 metric tons of petrol and 3,200 metric tons of diesel.

However, from today (8) we expect to distribute 5,000MT of petrol and 3,500MT of diesel to filling stations as usual.”

He said that although a shipment of diesel was expected on June 16 under Indian assistance, they had taken steps on Monday to get another two shipments. “Accordingly, we expect another two shipments of fuel on June 9 and 10. The Central Bank has secured the funds for the payment for these two shipments and accordingly, we expect to commence regular fuel distribution from today (8).”

The Minister also noted that Petroleum Corporation data shows that in comparison to the previous years there has been a sharp increase in fuel consumption during April and May this year.

He also said that a priority system would have to be put in place to ensure that the key segments like the public transport sector, agriculture and fisheries sectors, tourism are provided with a continuous fuel supply. He noted that a mechanism for this purpose is currently being finalized and would be applied shortly. He also noted that 160 fuel stations have been identified and diesel and kerosene oil will be distributed to these fuel stations from today for the convenience of the agriculture sector.

Referring to a newspaper report in a national newspaper, Minister Wijesekara refuted claims made that while there was a possibility of importing crude oil from Russia and a cheap rate the government had failed to do so. “We looked into these claims made in the relevant newspaper and as the report is completely baseless and false, we have reported the matter to the CID for investigation and we have also taken steps to initiate legal action against the relevant newspaper for reporting false information. In fact, the Editor of the relevant newspaper spoke to me last week and urged that the legal action taken against the newspaper be revoked and that disciplinary action would be taken against the journalist who wrote the article which was based on wrong information.”

Commenting on the power cuts, Minister Wijesekara said a mechanism has been implemented to provide a continuous supply of electricity.

He noted that at present three and a half hour power cuts are being imposed daily adding that they hope to reduce the power cut duration from yesterday to two hours and 15 minutes.

The Energy Minister said the government has tabled a proposal to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka and the Ceylon Electricity Board to impose power cuts according to a new schedule.

He added accordingly the government proposes imposing two hour and 15 minute power cuts at a stretch during the day time for three consecutive days from 6am-5pm, and to impose two hour and 15 minute power cuts during the next three days during the night time from 5-9pm.

The Minister noted that the government is able save Rs.400 million daily through the imposition of power cuts that would usually be directed towards diesel to generate power.

He said that over the past several days, thermal power was not used and the demand was managed through hydro, and renewable energy sources.

The Minister also stated that the CEB incurs a cost of Rs.47.18 per unit to generate power.

The Minister said diesel and furnace oil generation costs Rs.67.15 per unit, while at times diesel generation exceeds Rs.100 per unit. He noted that the lowest cost incurred is through hydro power generation that amounts to Rs.4.17 per unit. The Minister said renewable energy costs Rs.16.69 per unit, and coal Rs.31.19 per unit.

The Minister of Power said the country is in possession of coal till September adding that after that USD 900 million will be required to purchase coal for the next year.

Minister Wijesekera said the CEB has proposed a revision in electricity tariffs adding that it will not be a complete amendment. While a tariff revision would be made, he said that measures are also being taken to reduce costs.

 


Expat workers’ remittances will help revive economy - Semasinghe

The attempt by several political and other groups to discourage the Sri Lankan expatriate workers from making their remittances through the banking system at a time when the Rupee is floated is not commendable, said Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Parliamentarian (SLPP) Shehan Semasinghe in Parliament yesterday.

He said that Sri Lankans working overseas would get many benefits when the rupee is floated and making their remittances through our banking system would help revive the economy. He added that when the economy is revived all the issues the country is facing would be solved automatically and hence no average person would discourage Sri Lankans employed overseas from making their remittances through our banks.

He made these observations by moving an Adjournment Motion proposing that all Parliamentarians irrespective of their political differences should assist Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's economic strategy to overcome the economic crisis the country is facing.

He said that with the economic crisis situation, if it is found that the country is not a viable tourist destination, this would not be healthy for the country's economy. The loss of the USD 4.5 billion by way of a drop in tourist arrivals has a serious impact on our economy.

He said that the country got approximately USD 5 billion from Sri Lankans as foreign remittances. However, with the attempt to keep the dollar rate at around Rs 203, Sri Lankans working overseas were reluctant to send their money through our banking system. They used some other means to send their money to the country. However, during that period some political and other groups forced them not to send their money through Sate banks, to get political and other benefits.

He further said that the Government has taken measures within May, June and July to provide financial relief of between Rs.5,000 and Rs.7,500 to 3.3 million family units. He added that the country has utilized USD 160 million for this endeavour. He said that the number of the needy family units might have increased by now. Therefore, the Government led by the President and the Prime Minister should think of the other need groups as well.

 


Sajith highlights issues affecting small and medium scale entrepreneurs

Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa addressed several issues in Parliament affecting small and medium scale entrepreneurs.

He asked if the Government would take steps to further extend the grace period given to them by another year for the payment of their leasing installments and loans. The Opposition Leader also asked if there was a possibility of not charging an interest on the loans provided to these entrepreneurs and to reschedule their loans.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader accused the former Minister of Agriculture of misleading Parliament.

Premadasa said that although the former Agriculture Minister had said that production had decreased by only 10% during the last season, in fact it had reduced by 50%.

He also mentioned about the compensation that was due to be paid to the farmers.

“Therefore, I earnestly appeal to the Prime Minister to fulfil the promises that were made in this parliament prior to resetting everything as mentioned by him. The compensation that was due to be paid to the farmers must be paid. When gas cylinders were exploding and lives were being lost the victims were promised compensation. So, compensation for the damages and injuries must be paid. Therefore, Mr. Prime Minister sometimes when you reset things, the memory is somewhat lost. Hence, I urge you to keep the memory intact and reset because the people of this country have memories of the past two and a half years.”

In response, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that many of the issues that he had been dealt with are large scale enterprises which are bankrupt and in the view of the banks, cannot be revived. “So lets deal with it separately. The center are the ones that require help and we will bring them under the moratorium. Especially the minister for tourism has been speaking with me about the tourist sector and we will certainly give our attention to that. Then, with regard to the other matters, We have already discussed with the Central Bank and the people concerned on how to deal with the open accounts, the LCs and that has to be handled practically. At the moment we are in discussion with the minister of trade. It’s a big issue on what you allow and what you don’t. One man’s finished product is another man’s input. There are conflicting claims between different enterprises.”

With regard to the construction sector. He said, “I have to transfer all the money to feed the people. So, there will be a slowdown in payments to the construction sector as much as to many other sectors. There will be a complete slow-down of payments. We will pay what we can.”

The Prime Minister noted that he understands the difficulties faced by the construction and tourism trades, but said that his priority is to feed the people first.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa said that while it is understandable that there are priorities that have to met and there is no argument that the people must be fed, but added that it is a difficult situation but it is also important to go back in time to find out where the SLPP went wrong.

 


Country getting deeper into debt - Sarath Fonseka

SJB Parliamentarian Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told Parliament yesterday that the country is getting deeper into debt and there is no solution in sight. He noted that some are of the view that the best solution to the country’s crisis is to get more loans. “We hear of loans being taken from all over. When we see the country begging from everywhere, we feel ashamed as Sri Lankans.

He noted that one factor that led to the country being pushed into this predicament is the lack of productivity, be it the politicians and the government officials. “Then is the misuse and corruption.”

He also said that three hours prior to Ranil Wickremesinghe being summoned, the President had called him and asked him to accept the post of Prime Minister.

He said that at that time he had imposed several conditions to be met and had told the President that he would accept the post if the environment was created for the realization of these conditions.

Fonseka said that the President had invited Ranil Wickremesinghe to accept the post thereafter, adding that Wickremesinghe could sit in the Prime Minister’s seat because he paved the way for it.

Therefore, he said that Ranil Wickremesinghe should give him some credit and blessings as he played a role in paving the way for Wickremesinghe to occupy the Premier’s seat.


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